The Streets of Cairo
Problems playing this file? See media help.
"The Streets of Cairo" or "The Poor Little Country Maid", also known as "the snake charmer song", is a well-known melody in the United States. Alternate titles for children's songs using this melody include "The Girls in France" and "The Southern Part of France". This song is often associated with the hoochie coochie belly dance.
Purportedly the original version of the song was written by Sol Bloom, a showman (and later a U.S. Congressman) who was the entertainment director of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It included an attraction called "A Street in Cairo" produced by Gaston Akoun, which featured snake charmers, camel rides, and a scandalous dancer known as Little Egypt. Songwriter James Thornton penned the words and music to his own version of this melody, "Streets Of Cairo or The Poor Little Country Maid". Copyrighted in 1895, it was made popular by his wife Lizzie Cox, who used the stage name Bonnie Thornton. The oldest known recording of the song is from 1895, performed by Dan Quinn (Berliner Discs 171-Z).
The first five notes of the song are similar to the beginning of a French song named "Colin Prend Sa Hotte" (1719), which in turn resembles note for note an Algerian or Arabic song titled "Kradoutja".
The song was also recorded as "They Don't Wear Pants in the Southern Part of France" by John Bartles, the version sometimes played by radio host Dr. Demento.
Travadja La Moukère
In France, there is a popular song that immigrants from Algeria brought back in the 1960s called "Travadja La Moukère" (from trabaja la mujer, which means "the woman works" in Spanish), which uses the same Hoochy Coochy tune.[clarification needed] Its original tune, said to have been based on an original Arab song, was created around 1850 and subsequently adopted by the Foreign Legion.
Partial lyrics :
- Travadja La Moukère
- Travadja Bono
- Trempe ton cul dans la soupière
- Si c'est chaud c'est que ça brûle
- Si ça brûle c'est que c'est chaud !
- Travaja La Moukère
- Bono Travaja
- Soak your ass in the tureen
- If it is hot it burns
- If it burns it's that it's hot!
In popular culture
Since the piece is not copyrighted, it has been used as a basis for several songs, especially in the early 20th century:
- "Hoolah! Hoolah!"
- "Dance of the Midway"
- "Coochi-Coochi Polka"
- "Danse Du Ventre"
- "In My Harem" by Irving Berlin
- "Kutchy Kutchy"
- ''Strut, Miss Lizzie'' by Creamer and Layton
- In Italy, the melody is often sung with the words "Te ne vai o no? Te ne vai sì o no?" ("Are you leaving or not? Are you leaving, yes or no?"). That short tune is used to invite an annoying person to move along, or at least to shut up.
The tune is used for a 20th-century American children's song with – like many unpublished songs of child folk culture – countless variations as the song is passed from child to child over considerable lengths of time and geography, the one constant being that the versions are almost always smutty. One variation, for example, is:
- There's a place in France
- Where the ladies wear no pants
- But the men don't care
- 'cause they don't wear underwear.
or a similar version:
- There's a place in France
- Where the naked ladies dance
- There's a hole in the wall
- Where the boys can see it all
Another World War II-era variation is as follows:
- When your mind goes blank
- And you're dying for a wank
- And Hitler's playing snooker with your balls
- In the German nick
- They hang you by your dick
- And put dirty pictures on the walls
- Elliot, Julie Anne (2000-02-19). "There's a Place in France: That "Snake Charmer" Song". All About Middle Eastern Dance. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
- "France, Pants". Desultor. Harvard Law School. January 21, 2004. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
- Settlemier, Tyrone (2009-07-07). "Berliner Discs: Numerical Listing Discography". Online 78rpm Discographical Project. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
- Adams, Cecil (2007-02-23). "What is the origin of the song 'There's a place in France/Where the naked ladies dance?'". The Straight Dope. Creative Loafing Media, Inc. Retrieved 2009-09-17.